MATCH REPORT: Title-chasing Wisbech Town breeze to opening day victory
Ridgeons Premier Division: Wisbech Town 3 Wivenhoe Town 0
WISBECH Town breezed to a comfortable opening day victory as Steve Appleby’s title-chasing Fenmen picked up three points without barely breaking a sweat.
Goals from Neal Spafford, Ollie Gale and returning midfielder Callum Reed eased the Ridgeons League Challenge Cup holders to a deserved opening day triumph - but it certainly won’t be this easy all season.
The Fenmen absolutely dominated the game - even though the visitors had two golden chances to get on the scoresheet - with the second half almost turning into a non-event.
However, the authoritative nature of the performance was enough to leave the Fenmen’s loyal faithful dreaming that this could be the season that their club win the Ridgeons Premier Division.
Appleby’s side came flying out of the hurdles and forced a flurry of corners in the opening stages as Wisbech laid siege to the Wivenhoe goal.
Stacy Cartwright’s in-swinger was pushed onto the bar by Wivenhoe ‘keeper Andrew Daniels before another of the left-back’s corners was sidefooted home by Spafford - just two minutes had been played.
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And with Spafford and Reed getting lots of joy down the right-hand side it looked like it was going to a long afternoon for Wivenhoe’s back four.
But against the run of play The Dragons had a shock chance to equalise when nippy striker Ben Licence got the wrong side of Simon Ashton and raced through on goal.
However, the lightning quick reactions of Wisbech’s imposing new ‘keeper Ryan Rayner - who rushed off his line to close the angle - was enough to keep the Fenmen in front with the shot-stopper saving Licence’s effort with his legs.
That initial scare aside, the Fenmen continued to dominate the half with the impressive Chris Bacon linking the play well and Paul Jones and Steven Reid controlling the centre of the park.
The crowd were enjoying what they were seeing as Bacon linked up delightfully with Liam Nimmo in what looks to be a potent strikeforce already.
The joyous mood was interrupted briefly when Anthony Reeve was substituted with an ankle injury, but his replacement, youngster Ollie Gale soon lifted the mood.
The talented wideman scored with his first touch - although it was harder to miss - as he passed the ball into an empty net following up on Reed’s fine effort which the visitors’ ‘keeper Daniels could only parry.
Five minutes later - as the game approached half-time - the pacy Licence beat Wisbech’s offside trap and rounded Rayner, who raced off his line rashly and got caught in no man’s land, but fired over from a tight angle.
Bacon should have made it 3-0 before the break but somehow managed to scuff his shot from six yards out following another Wisbech corner.
The game became scrappier in the second half but Wisbech still had the better of the exchanges with Reid, Nimmo and Bacon all going close.
Yet it was Reed, who had been less influential in the second half, who made it 3-0 when he fizzed home a 25-yard free kick with minutes left to wrap up the comfortable win.
His effort rolled into the bottom corner and owed much to substitute Lewis Thompson’s stepover - and the slow reactions of Wivenhoe ‘keeper Daniels - than anything else.
Substitute Nick Davey looked lively when he came on and almost scored twice in stoppage time with one header nearly being parried across his own line by the less than convincing Daniels.
Ridgeons Premier Division results in full
CRC 0 Diss Town 2 - Att: 87
Dereham Town 2 Walsham-le-Willows - Att: 162
Ely City 1 FC Clacton 0 - Att: 94
Felixstowe & Walton United 1 Wroxham 3 - Att: 74
Gorleston 2 Haverhill Rovers 1 - Att: 161
Hadleigh United 2 Great Yarmouth Town 1 - Att: 81
Mildenhall Town 3 Kirkley & Pakefield 0 - Att: 129
Norwich United 1 Stanway Rovers 2 - Att: 58
Wisbech Town 3 Wivenhoe Town 0 - Att: 322
Woodbridge Town 5 Newmarket Town 0 - Att: 72
• Click on the related link to find out how First Division March Town United got on at the weekend.
• Video highlights from the game - and a post-match interview with Steve Appleby - will be be posted online this morning.